Sunday, 2 November 2008

Confessions of a Psycho Cat (1968)

Confessions of a Psycho Cat is a bizarre but fascinating 1968 variation on The Most Dangerous Game. Like so many exploitation movies of this period it existed in several versions. The version released by Something Weird Video had extra sexploitation scenes added, and although those scenes make no sense their very disconnectedness adds to the surreal quality of the film.

The psycho cat of the title is Virginia, played with extraordinary enthusiasm and wide-eyed craziness by Eileen Lord. Her brother is a big-game hunter, and while he’s on safari in Africa Virginia decides to go on a safari of her own in New York City. First she needs some game to hunt. She finds three men who have all committed a murder but been acquitted, and offers each of them $100,000 if they can survive in Manhattan for 24 hours while she stalks them. Her three victims are an ageing actor who killed a jealous husband who caught him with his wife, a wrestler who killed a man in the ring by stomping on his face, and a junkie drug-dealer who gave his girlfriend a fatal dose of heroin.

The sequences in which she hunts them down have a wonderfully off-the-wall surreal quality to them, especially with Virginia dressed as a matador in her final showdown with the wrestler. The wrestler fights like a wounded bull, which is appropriate enough since he’s played by legendary boxer Jake LaMotta, the Raging Bull himself. The drug-dealer is pursued through Central Park by Virginia, her weapon this time being a cross-bow.

While Virginia hunts her human prey she is also being hunted, by her psychiatrist. He ha been increasingly disturbed by her erratic behaviour. Can the good doctor find her in time? And what has caused her mania for hunting, and what is driving her to murder?

Eileen Lord’s performance is definitely the highlight. She’s amazing, truly and utterly amazing. This is scenery-chewing on a level rarely achieved before or since, and it’s superbly entertaining. The movie itself is weird but compelling and a great deal of fun. The Something Weird DVD release looks extremely good and there are lots of extras, including an odd little educational film on mental health from the 50s that is guaranteed to reduce any prospective parent to a guilt-ridden shambles, and there’s a second feature film as well (which I have yet to see).

If you have a taste for the strange then Confessions of a Psycho Cat is highly recommended.

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